Follow TV Tropes


Series / Jack-of-All-Trades

Go To
There ain't a French or pirate rogue who don't... know Jack!

"In eighteen-hundred-one the Revolution had been won
And Uncle Sam’s favorite son had a job he needed done
Which brought Jack to a lady, both beautiful and smart
Who found his mix intriguing—a scoundrel with a heart!
From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli
There was never a leatherneck braver, a Daring Dragoon is he
He’ll halt the bold advance of Napoleon’s attack
There ain’t a French or pirate rogue who don’t know Jack!
From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli
Sailin’ round the bloody world to defend democracy
And when ya need a fightin’ man ya’d trust ta watch yer back
Just ask the bloke right next ta ya—it’s… Jack!"

Jack of All Trades was an action/comedy show that ran for one-and-a-half seasons in 2000, paired with Cleopatra 2525 as part of Universal/Studios USA's syndicated Action Pack. Set in 1801, it is a spiritual relative of Steampunk series like The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.. and The Wild Wild West, starring Bruce Campbell as Jack Stiles, an American secret agent sent to the fictional French-controlled island of Palau-Palau. Once there, he meets his British contact and Slap-Slap-Kiss love interest, fellow spy Emilia Rothschild, and together the two work to stop Napoléon Bonaparte and other threats to the United States. To the public, Jack serves as Emilia's mild-mannered manservant, but when trouble strikes, he transforms into a masked hero, the Daring Dragoon.

A fun little series with a truly great (and, to the crew's surprise, Emmy Nominated) theme song.


Not to be confused with the trope Jack-of-All-Trades.

This series contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Decay: In "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Opera," Croque writes an opera based on his life. He portrays himself as a strong and beloved governor, while the Daring Dragoon is portrayed as bald, fat, and pathetic. Jack is only too happy to wreck the performance.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Exaggerated. After Croque's stint in prison, he has a Heel Realization and that people suffer under the laws he enforced. He vows to pardon prisoners and easy up, but once back in power, he immediately forgets his promises and insists he only spoke out of duress.
  • Affably Evil: Croque.
  • Anachronism Stew: The theme song clearly establishes that the show is set in 1801. And yet New France hasn't fallen yet and Blackbeard and Ben Franklin are still alive.
  • Advertisement:
  • Artistic License – History: All over the place, naturally. But the biggest error was that the US was allied with Napoleonic France against Britain most of the time. The rest of the time it was neutral.
  • Better the Devil You Know: The reason why Jack and Emilia often help Governor Croque keep his job.
  • Big Brother Bully: Napoleon to Croque.
  • Bondage Is Bad: Averted in "X Marquis the Spot". While the Marquis de Sade is the episode's villain and stole King George's crown, everyone else on his island are depicted as normal (for the given value of "normal" in this series), consenting adults engaged in a bit of kinky fun. At the end, while Jack and Emilia decide the lifestyle is not for them, they also decide it's not their place to judge those who partake.
  • Catapult Nightmare: In "Daddy Dearest", Jack has a knockout gas-induced Erotic Dream about Emilia that turns into one of these when she's suddenly replaced by Governer Croque.
  • The Cavalier Years: The show takes place long after this time period, but Jack's "Daring Dragoon" character invokes tropes from the era.
  • Chekhov's Gun: If an episode starts with Emilia demonstrating a new invention to Jack, you can bet that it will be just what's needed at some point in the episode.
  • Clark Kenting: Jack wears a hat and mask to obscure his identity as the Daring Dragoon. He's the only American on the whole frelling island.
    • In one gag (featured in the opening) someone rips the Dragoon's mask off... only to find another, identical, mask under it.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: The Daring Dragoon costume.
  • Curtain Clothing: How Jack first got his Dragoon disguise.
  • Dancing Theme: Best intro sequence ever.
  • Double Entendre: Pretty much the whole point.
  • The Dragon: Capitaine Brogard
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Emilia's father calls her "Fufu". Also subverted in that the way she got it was pretty badass.
  • Expository Theme Tune: A classic (and Emmy-nominated) example.
  • Fake Guest Star: Croque and Brogard appeared in almost every episode, but their actors were never credited in the main titles.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Feather boas are part of the outfits in the Marquis de Sade's island.
  • Friendly Enemy: Jack and Emilia's father were this during the Revolution. They repeatedly tried to kill each other, but there was no real animosity; they even respected each other.
  • Harmless Electrocution: In " The Floundering Father", Jack, not realizing what it means, offers himself as a replacement electrical conductor for Emilia's submarine and suffers no ill effects from being zapped directly through the head for 100 nautical miles.
  • Harmless Villain: Croque, who in spite of technically being Napoleon's representative is more pathetic than anything else. Any the danger present in an episode always comes from the Villain of the Week, with Croque ineptly assisting them. At one point Jack and Emilia even conspire to make Croque look good for Napoleon, since if he fails too often Napoleon might replace him with someone actually competent.
  • Hidden Buxom: When Jack and Emilia infiltrate a French fortress wearing "borrowed" soldiers' uniforms, Jack points out the obvious flaw in the plan, and she retorts, "they're not exactly detachable, you know."
  • Historical Domain Character: All over the place, from Napoleon to Ben Franklin to the Marquis de Sade to Catherine the Great. Pretty much anyone who could even vaguely be expected to show up in the early 1800s give or take a decade or three (Franklin and Catherine had already been dead for years by the time of the show, for example.)
  • Historical In-Joke: The series is full of them.
    • Most people don't realize that "The Louisiana Purchase" was actually Napoleon losing Louisiana in a poker game to the Daring Dragoon.
    • In a passing comment, Jack recalls saving West Point from a traitor "named Benedict Arnold."
    • Lewis and Clark's expedition had been a disaster, missing Oregon by "about 10,000 miles." Jack got them on the right course and even set them up with a certain female Indian guide.
    • The rumor about Catherine the Great and a horse apparently started due to an unfortunate shadow play (a pendant in the shape of a horse was swinging in front of a window, while Catherine bent over to fix her boot; the protagonists were behind a curtain and saw what appeared to be a horse repeatedly mounting a woman).
  • Ignore the Disability: Spoofed: Having been admonished not to comment on Napoleon's height, Jack comes right out and calls him shorty (it is notable that Napoleon was played by Verne Troyer).
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: Emilia suggests the underwear variant in "Raging Bully" when Jack gets nervous about his upcoming life-or-death poker game with Napoleon. When the time comes, he not only imagines Napoleon in his underwear, but Governer Croque, Captain Brogard (whom he imagines is in a diaper), and Emilia as well.
  • Improvised Parachute: The President's niece's dress to escape the French in Canada with Jack.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: How could anyone not like Governor Croque?
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: ... as played by a talking parrot.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: "A scoundrel with a heart" according to the theme song.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: The show takes place on a French colony, but French characters inevitably just speak English with a silly accent. One could conceivably justify this as characters speaking English for Jack and Emilia's benefit, but the trope is in force even during scenes where every character is French.
  • The Lad-ette: Kentucky Sue is a fairly exaggerated example, close to a female Boisterous Bruiser.
  • Loveable Rogue: Jack, of course.
  • Memory Wipe Exploitation: "Hamnesia" has Emilia left with amnesia after taking a blow to the head, and Jack promptly convinces her that she's an uninhibited party animal.
  • Mister Big: Napoleon (who is an actual midget).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Emilia (Angela Dotchin) is fairly attractive.
  • The Napoleon: The man himself. Portrayed as almost single-highhandedly keeping his empire together with his Keen Mind, ruthlessness, and Wire Fu. Played by Verne Troyer.
  • Not Quite Dead: The end of "Shark Bait" reveals that Blackbeard and Nardo survived the explosion and are fighting over control of the sub.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: King George, to throw off Napoleon. According to George, Napoleon is so much The Chess Master that he panics if he can't predict your actions.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: The Marquis de Sade's island.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Jack is never identified as the Daring Dragoon despite making no attempt to disguise his voice or American accent on an island where he is the only American. And the Dragoon didn't start appearing until Jack arrived in Pulau Pulau. Justified to an extent by Croque's incompetence, but the soldiers, particularly Brogard, have no such excuse.
  • Parachute Petticoat: In the first episode, Jack rescues President Jefferson's niece from a French fort in Canada. To escape the fort, Jack and the girl jump off a high cliff. They are saved because Jack grabs on to her feet and her dress billows out to form a parachute. (Jack also gets an excellent view of her petticoats, and her bloomers are showing)
  • Paying for the Action Scene: Hilariously lampshaded in "Raging Bully"
    Jack (As the Dragoon) Oh, uh, Croque... (Tosses him a coin) This is for the broken window.
    Croque: (Catches it) What broken window?
    Jack: AH-HA-HA-HA! (Crashes out the window)
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: As evidenced by her lifting of a wide platter of a roast, Emilia is definitely stronger than she appears.
  • Pirate: Blackbeard, even though he should be long dead by the time the show is set.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Jack and Emilia frequently gets their orders from a messenger parrot who's perfectly capable of having a conversation with them.
  • Prison Episode: "Croquey in the Pokey." Croque is framed for plotting to assassinate Napoleon and Jack (unwillingly) goes to prison to protect him, while Emilia works to prove his innocence.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • President Jefferson genuinely believes the mission in Palau-Palau is vital to American interests and that Jack is the best man for the job. Of course, Jefferson knew that Jack was fooling around with his niece and wanted him as far away from her as humanly possible.
    • The series itself was an Antarctica for writer/producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. They had successfully show-ran Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, so they were made show-runners for the fifth season of Xena: Warrior Princess. That season wound up being heavily criticized, and, fairly or not, they got the blame from all concerned. More than a few people noticed how they were off Xena before Season 5 ended and suddenly on this series.
  • Riding the Bomb: Blackbeard, of all people.
  • Selective Magnetism: Applied to the Governor's armor to avert an execution.
  • Shout-Out: One episode revolves around France's gift of the Statue of Liberty to the USA. It ends with a re-creation of one of cinema's best known examples of the Twist Ending.
  • Shown Their Work: You would think the US and France would have good relations in 1801, except for an undeclared, seldom remembered war between the US and France, called the Quasi-War. The US hated both Britain and France at the time, and many Americans even hated the French much more. The 1801 setting is also surprisingly appropriate for the Cold War-esque nature of the Britain vs. France conflict in the show. It takes place during (technically, just prior to) the Peace of Amiens, a brief period when Britain and France were not actually at war with each other.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Emilia is usually spared this, but "Crokey in the Pokey" ends with Jack pushing her off the docks as payback for getting him mixed up in the Prison Episode plot.
  • Super Window Jump: As seen here.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Blackbeard, of course!
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "One, Two, Three Give Me Lady Liberty" is set during the holiday. Because Napoleon has another scheme in the works, Jack and Emilia take part in Croque's planned dinner. Emilia sees it as an opportunity to look for intel, though Jack also wants to ensure the French get Thanksgiving dinner right. We even get a montage of what the featured characters are thankful for. After finding Napoleon's plans, they need a diversion to foil his scheme, so Jack makes use of another holiday tradition: a game of American football.
  • Toplessness from the Back: In one episode, Emilia takes off her robe and we get a glimpse of her bare back before she steps into the bath.
  • The Unreveal: Captain Brogard once had the opportunity to rip off the mask of "the Daring Dragoon" and reveal his secret identity... except that Jack was wearing a second mask underneath the one Brogard ripped off!
  • Well Done Daughter Gal: Emilia feels her father never truly supported her following in his footsteps as a spy. In truth, he didn't - not because of gender roles, but because he was haunted by the thought of her dying in the line of duty and having to bury her.
  • Who Shot JFK?: In Napoleon's first appearance on the show, he forces the residents to constantly cheer him as he circles them - with soldiers pointing rifles at them the whole time - prompting Jack to suggest to Emilia some elegant ways to kill Napoleon out of revenge. One plan Jack comes up with involves getting a pasty to shoot Napoleon from "that school book depository over there."